By Melissa Wood, SeaFood Business assistant editor
Published on Tuesday, April 10, 2012
The sale of a major U.S. rainbow trout producer may cause some delays but should not significantly impact supply.
The USD 34 million purchase transfers the water rights and facilities of three farms owned by Idaho Trout Co. in Buhl, Idaho, to local groundwater districts. The districts are expected to lease those water rights for continued rainbow trout production, according to the Times-News of Twin Falls, Idaho.
“We’re led to believe that those facilities will continue to be devoted to rainbow trout production,” confirmed Randy MacMillan, past president of the U.S. Trout Farmers Association and immediate past president of the National Aquaculture Association.
“The key point is that the properties that were sold are going to be devoted to trout production — that’s the intent,” said MacMillan, who noted that there could be some delays in supply caused by the transfer in ownership. “The details of how that’s going to work are still being figured out.”
According to Kay Hardy, president of Idaho Trout Co., the decision to sell was made to resolve longstanding water rights issues that had been in litigation, and was not about financial issues.
“We are not closing for any economic reason. Far from feeling any economic pressure, it’s been a very good year in the Idaho trout industry for all of the producers,” said Hardy. “A number of people have been involved in litigation for years and this benefits many parties, including agriculture and other aquaculture users including SeaPak and Clear Springs Foods.”
MacMillan explained that when you’re talking about water rights, things get “very, very complicated very, very fast.” In Idaho, the doctrine is “first in time, first in right. If you’re the first one to get the water right, then you have first priority to that water,” said MacMillan.
As a 60-year-old company, Idaho Trout Co. had senior water rights, which it sold to the groundwater districts. The districts will use those three farms to mitigate other trout farmers with junior rights who are not getting all of their water. MacMillan said they’re still in the process of figuring out how to do that.
The sale does not mean the end of Idaho Trout Co. either, said Hardy.
“We remain active in the trout industry but with a smaller operation and marketing arrangements still to be determined,” she said. “This was a decision based upon sharing of a water resource and we had worked on this diligently so that litigation could be ended for all parties and that we could again live in peace in a water community.”